Privacy is a huge buzzword in our industry, and throughout our society. Between the Cambridge Analytica disaster, “fake news,“ and data breaches happening in large and small companies, privacy is top of mind for every event professional. But how do we go about protecting the data of our attendees and stakeholders? What do we need to know and how do we learn it? Here are some of the big steps you can take for the sake of your attendees and your business.

1. Take your own privacy seriously.

Think like an attendee and take your own privacy seriously. Do you know what the companies you entrust with your data are doing with it? Do you know the privacy policies of the different social media websites and events you subscribe to? Until you take your own privacy seriously, it will be difficult for you to understand the needs and interests of your audience. This means actually reading the Terms of Service for the various companies you use. Make sure that your data with each of them is completely secure and that they do not have anything in their terms that allows them to sell your user’s data or use it in any way that you feel is inappropriate.

2. Own your responsibility in data security.

As an event organizer, you are responsible for securing the data that you own. In our industry, there is a very wide variety of information we have at our fingertips. Of course, we have names and email addresses, but we also have company names and titles, user information related to salaries or other questions on our registration forms. We are constantly passing data back and forth in Excel documents and exporting registration lists or sharing sponsorship trackers.

The next big thing we are required to do is to own our responsibility and the data security of our attendees and stakeholders. Here are a few things you should consider as you start this process:

  • Measure the security of your internal systems. For example, what are you doing in Dropbox or Google Drive or your own email account—and what are the risks associated with that? If your email was to get hacked, how much information could people get about your audience?
  • What are your vulnerabilities? Have you been sharing your attendee information with sponsors? Do you list your attendee list on a website that could be accessed through the Internet? Do you ever sell your attendees information to other companies? All of these can become huge potential vulnerabilities. It’s important you know what your risks are so that you can plan around them.

3. Communicate your privacy plan with your stakeholders.

As you take the initiative to focus on stakeholder privacy, it’s also important that you take the proactive stance of communicating with them. Let them know what information you collect, how you secure it and your plan is if there was ever a data breach. Update your website’s Terms of Service and make your privacy plan very clear. I strongly suggest hiring an expert to help you put this together and think through all the various pieces.

Transparency here is key. Let your consumers know how you will use their data. If their information is at risk in anyway, let them know. This communication is critical because it will allow your audience to trust you and to see that you are being proactive on a topic that is important to so many, but that many brands are not taking seriously enough.

As you can see, this is a very complex issue. Thinking about the security of your data and the impact, should it ever be compromised, is a very challenging topic, but it is one that we cannot ignore in our industry. It’s not OK to just claim that we are not experts. We have to go the extra step and force ourselves to learn things that are outside our comfort zone. I encourage you to do your research, hire experts to assist you, and take this as seriously as you do all of your event logistics.

Liz King Caruso is a social media expert and founder of Techsytalk and Liz King Events.